What is Laser Hair Removal:
Laser hair removal is a method of removing hair by exposing to pulses of laser light which destroys the hair follicle by traveling down the shaft of the hair and causes delay in the consequent hair growth. It is an extremely targeted treatment that does not affect the skin around. The high beam light destroy the hair follicle and a hair cannot grow from it as the light energy is converted to heat which destroys the tube-shaped sacs below the skin surface that produce hair. As soon as melanin (pigment) in hair is targeted, the laser beam burns the hair follicle and all the way down the root.
It is commonly practiced in many beauty and cosmetic clinics and is third most popular non-surgical aesthetic procedure. A lot of research in terms of technique evolution has been done in the past decade.
Today, it has become highly effective and efficient method of hair removal and beautification, and is been used widely. It has gained popularity because of its seamless process and effectiveness, although some of it is dependent upon the competency of the person carrying out the process. It is said to be the only treatment of its kind that comes close to full claim of permanent, long lasting hair reduction as it acts on the hair deep in the follicle, as compared to other treatments of hair removal that cut the hair follicle mid-shaft. This technique has been in practice since the year 1997.
The basic principle of this hair removal technique is based on selective photo-thermolysis, wherein a particular wavelength of light and pulse to on the targeted tissue with least effects on other adjacent tissue. The pigment in the hair follicles absorbs the light and that causes the hair destruction.
Types of Laser treatments :
- Nd :YAG Laser : This is usually meant for darker skin colour because of it is inadequate melanin absorption. Since dark skin has the ability to absorb more laser light than light skin, the Nd:YAG laser was invented as a safe option for ethnic skin types. YAG send out long wavelengths which can bypass the darker epidermis, to target the hair follicles within. By means of this, it invades deep into the skin and reduces the risk of epidermal or surface damage. Nonetheless, as it absorbs less melanin, it is not very effective for women with finer and lighter hair
- Alexandrite Laser : This type is used for people who have moderate brown range of skin tones. It transmits a long wavelength similar to YAG, but in some cases, can cause scarring of the skin
- Diode Laser : This laser technique is relatively new, and works wonders on dark skin type with coarse hair. It makes use of long wavelength which allows for a safer and deeper penetration. However, as this is very recent, its long term effects are unknown
- Ruby Laser : It is one of the oldest systems in laser hair removal method, and typically meant for light-skinned women. It is also known to be less painful compared to other methods. But, this type can be only used on smaller areas of skin
Comparison to other hair removal methods :
The conventional methods of hair removal include shaving, waxing, tweezing, creams, epilation. Each method of hair removal has its own pros and cons.
- The mess factor : Laser hair removal technique is comparatively much less messier than waxing or using creams with respect to subsequent clean up that follows the procedure. Laser is a clean method
- The time factor : Regrowth of hair is fastest with creams and shaving, which becomes visible after 3 to 4 days of removal. Waxing and epilation show better results as they remove hair follicles by the root, which allows 2 to 3 weeks of hair-free period. On the other hand, laser hair removal, aims at hair reduction and does not show hair growth for around 8-10 months
- The pain factor : As it is rightly said that everything comes with its price, beautification is no exception to this. Shaving and creams are the only methods of hair removal that do not cause pain. Laser hair removal can also be mildly painful, just like pricks on the skin. Though it depends on each person’s pain threshold, other methods like waxing and tweezing are more painful as compared to laser. The pain experienced from laser method is described as an elastic band being snapped across the skin
- The money factor : It is absolutely a no-brainer that as laser hair removal is a better method of hair reduction, the cost will be higher than other methods. The cost is higher as multiple sessions are required for best results.
The laser procedure generally requires six to eight sessions for maximum benefits and promising results. Some of the body parts where laser is commonly used are : chin and upper lip on the face, hands, legs, bikini line and under arms.
The stand-alone benefit of laser hair removal technique is that it renders near to permanent hair removal and reduces hair growth to a point where using other conventional methods of hair removal become needless.
- Accuracy : Lasers can selectively target dark, coarse hair while leaving the adjacent skin undamaged
- Speed : Each single pulse of laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat a lot of hair at the same time. Smaller areas such as parts of the face – upper lips can be completed in less than a minute’s time and the larger areas such as the legs – may take an hour.
- Others : It also helps to reduce in-growth of hair on the skin and causes less irritation of the skin as it triggers the hair to grow straight. It is comparatively pain-free. Although there is a small snapping sensation against the skin during the procedure, it can be managed with use of ice and some numbing creams
- Salon visits : This method reduces the timely and regular trips to the salon for hair removal methods like waxing, threading, plucking, tweezing. With every laser session, as the hair growth diminishes and the coarseness of the hair reduces, the sessions become less frequent and less painful
- Effectiveness : This technique is more effective as compared to other conventional methods of hair removal methods like waxing, shaving, threading, tweezing. It does not cause damage to the dermis and hence safe.
There are some downsides to laser hair removal as well. It still steers some reluctance for the general population
- Lengthy : Although it helps in considerable hair reduction, it is a lengthy procedure, requiring multiple sessions before achieving the desired results. The waiting period between two consecutive sessions could be around 4 to 6 weeks, which calls for a longer commitment period.
- Hair colour : The type of hair and skin colour can have an impact on efficiency of hair removal. It is the most efficient when the laser can focus on marked difference in pigment – such as darker hair on a light skin as the pigment contrast makes it easier for the laser to target the hair, travel into the follicular area and destroy the follicle. As the concentrated light is taken up by the pigment, laser hair removal is tedious in people with lighter hair colour like blonde or gray.
- Cost : Despite the fact that it offers ‘permanent’ hair removal solution and could save the future salon trips to a great extent, the initial cost is quite high depending upon the type of facility. Each visits roughly amounts to 200 to 500 $ (15,000 Rs to 35,000 Rs), depending upon the area being treated. This could turn out to be equivalent to what one may end up spending on razors or waxing sessions in a complete lifetime
- Safety : This procedure requires a trained expert with board certification, which if not available can cause skin damage. There could be some side effects after the procedure like scars, blisters or burns, redness of skin; if the skin is very sensitive and the treatment is carried out by less experienced personnel.
- After-care : One of the important precaution that is required to be taken is preventing sun exposure. Immediately after the treatment, the skin becomes very sensitive and it is best to avoid sun exposure in the first 24 hours after the session. Some mild redness and bumpiness is not uncommon immediately after the session
Electrolysis vs Laser hair removal :
Although often claimed and marketed as permanent solution for hair removal, laser hair removal yields 70 to 90% hair reduction, not removal on the areas that have been treated. The regrowth of some of the remaining follicles occurs as some of them have not been completely destroyed during the earlier sessions and the hair can be in the resting stage during the treatment.
Electrolysis, on the contrary, is the stand alone method recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Medical Association as a permanent method of hair removal. In this process, a probe is pierced into the skin and it uses shortwave radio frequencies in hair follicles to inhibit new hair growth. It damages the hair follicles and prevents it from growing, along with causing existing hair to fall out. Multiple sessions are needed to obtain best results.
Unlike lasers, which target the pigment in the hair follicle, and for this reason people with light and finer hair are the not the best candidates; electrolysis attacks the hair follicle itself. Therefore, it can be used on people irrespective of their skin or hair colour. Although it can be slightly more painful, it does depend on a person’s pain threshold
Laser hair treatment for permanent hair removal is a feasible option for most women as it a pain-free procedure and produces results that last longer than any traditional methods of hair removal like tweezing, waxing, shaving. It is essential to get it done from a certified dermatologist or cosmetologist for more assured and promising results. The initial cost is definitely higher but it is believed to have worthy outcome. It is also important to thoroughly understand the upsides and downsides of laser hair removal method in order to make an informed choice.